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Opinions of Sunday, 21 March 2010

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Asare

Akufo-Addo, Betty, Mills And Partisan Cleansing

Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko

On 24th December, 2009, I saw Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu and his wife Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu being among a group of beautiful people enjoying a special carol night in the house of Mr and Mrs Edward Akufo-Addo Jr. Three months later I am surprise to hear her opting to defend her cordial relationship with the Akufo-Addos and others in the NPP by telling what has been pointed out to be a lie about Nana Akufo-Addo.

"I was virtually hounded out of the Ministry of Justice by this same man who people say is my best friend. I had to leave the Ministry of Justice because I was attacked time and time again in 2000/2001 by the former Minister of Justice…I don't think Nana would deny that. I don't think that he can deny that he put extreme pressure on me to leave. He said that I was just too prominent a member of the NDC to be head of a division in the Ministry of Justice and so I had to leave… What happened to me was unpardonable. The hurt that it caused me and my family; I had to leave my family, I had to leave my husband, leave my children and leave Ghana in order to sustain myself. What happened to me, I will never do to any other state Attorney or any other public servant."

The statement above is culled from a 60-minute interview that Attorney General Betty Mould Iddrisu, who last year held a press conference to inform Ghanaians that prosecutions were to flow this year on some 49 corruption cases, granted to Radio Gold Tuesday morning.

The response was straight to the point. "The Office of Nana Akufo-Addo wishes to place on record that this is an unfortunate, even if she sees it as a convenient, lie. Far from hounding her out of office, not only did she continue to act as Head of the International Law Division during the entire two-year period of his tenure as Attorney-General, Nana Akufo-Addo actually left the current Attorney-General behind at the Attorney-General's Office when he left in March 2003 to take up his new responsibilities as Foreign Minister. Subsequently, he accepted her request for a reference letter to support her application for an international job. In fact, he gave her a glowing reference because he was satisfied about her competence and fitness for the job."

But, Feisty Betty did not leave it there. In a press release, she shifted blame on to her colleague Ministers and investigators. She said, despite a memo from the Chief of Staff to the Ministers to provide her with documentary evidence on the 49 identified corruption cases arising out of the Transitional Team;s report, only the Transport Minister has been forthcoming, explaining why charges are reportedly prepared on Ghana International Airline dealings. Again, the CID, BNI, SFO and investigators, generally, have not been able to provide her office with enough evidence for her to prosecute the said cases.

Now, let us go back to Pretty (or is it Petty) Betty. According to the Attorney-General's own CV, she worked with "Ghana's Ministry of Justice from 1978 until her appointment at the Commonwealth Secretariat in November 2003. At the Justice Ministry, she headed the Industrial Property Law Division and was later appointed Ghana's Copyright Administrator before leaving for the Commonwealth job, after serving as Head of the Ministry's International Law Division."

If Akufo-Addo left Betty behind and she stayed at post under another NPP A-G Papa Owusu-Ankomah for another 8 months before leaving for a more lucrative post at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, then how could she have been hounded out of office by her former boss?

And, why would she not go to Dr Obed Asamoah (the A-G before 2001) or Papa, her last boss, for a reference but chose rather perversely to go to the Foreign Ministry to seek a glowing reference from the very man who tormented her?

One would have thought her game was up. But, no! Not Betty. She has hit back saying she stands by her claim 100%. But, there is a subtle but significant shift. Her latest story is that, whilst working under Akufo-Addo, he kept harassing her that President Kufuor wanted her out. She said, for the two years that Nana was her boss, each time Nana met her at the office, he would say "Are you still here? There is too much pressure from the President and sections of government. Each time I go to the Castle, the President keeps asking me about you."

Hmmm. So, both her immediate boss, the Attorney-General, and the President of the Republic wanted or reassigned or sacked and they could not do it for nearly 3 years until she resigned to take up another job in November 2003? President Mills must be thinking what a wimp his predecessor was. Why not? It took President Mills just a couple of months to get rid of people like Prof Ken Attafuah and several Chief Directors.

Now, let us take our time and analyse the facts well. (P)NDC had been in office 19 years. The impression in 2001 was that the civil service had been 'bastardised' and (P)NDC-ized and the whole government machinery had been booby-trapped against the new NPP government; there were moles everywhere. This mainly motivated the unhealthy 'proceed-on-leave' syndrome.

When Nana Akufo-Addo became the Attorney-General in 2001, Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, then head of the International Law Division, was among the complement of staff he met at the Office of the Attorney General. Instructively, no significant personnel change took place in that sensitive office.

As his statement Tuesday points out, "It was common knowledge that Mrs. Mould Iddrisu was the wife of the former Defence Minister in the previous NDC administration, Alhaji Mahama Iddrisu. This fact led to some lobbying from some quarters for her to be reassigned to another portfolio within the civil service. Nana Akufo-Addo resisted such calls and defended his decision to maintain her at post on the ground that he had no reason to believe that her political affiliation was affecting either her professional judgment or her competence. Indeed, Mrs. Mould Iddrisu was given additional duties in charge of the de-confiscation of assets."

It seems the more people seek to destroy Akufo-Addo the more they expose his virtues. This is a man who has been bastardised as a firebrand who would fire, arrest and jail his political opponents. Yet, his actions give an entirely different picture.

But, like the astute politician that he is, Nana Akufo-Addo used the Betty opportunity to attack him to hit back at President Mills, who preaches virtue but apparently not to the hearing of his government.

"Unlike the culture of partisan cleansing that competent Ghanaians in the public service have experienced under the current Mills administration, Nana Akufo-Addo stood firm to his principles that insofar as the Constitution of the Republic gave every Ghanaian the right to join a political party of their choice, he was not going to relieve any officer serving under him of their position solely on the basis of their political party membership, affiliation or sympathies,” the statement from Nana’s office read.

The statement goes on to advise President Mills that like Akufo-Addo, for the NDC, “the only relevant consideration” in appointments must be “competence and professionalism and so long as” public servants do “not allow their political sympathies to affect their competence, professionalism and judgment,” President Mills ought to have worked with the likes of Ken Attafuah.

While the response from Nana office concedes that there was pressure to get rid of Betty, the facts show that Nana did not get rid of her. There are hundreds of examples of Ghanaians who have been literally hounded and chased out of office in this era of a ‘Better Ghana’.

In fact, I remember when the pressure was fully on Nana's neck in 2002-2003, with NPP hardliners calling for prosecutions to flow and NDC crying persecution, some procedural blunders led to some powerful calls for Nana to be sacked or reassigned. Betty's current predicament is familiar territory. Nana's friendship with people like Kojo Tsikata and ET Mensah were often cited as reasons for his "reluctance" to act on prepared dockets. I got to know of Betty Mould's sensitive position at that time. People could not understand why she was still at post at the time Tsatsu was "winning" interlocutory judgments in court. The charge was that the A-G's was infested with NDC people. In fact, Betty today admits that even as a civil servant and against the rules she was a "too prominent member of the NDC."  There were 'strange' and embarrassing happenings. On March 12, 2002, the NPP Government issued a public apology and added that it saw the distasteful attempt attempt to arrest Tsatsu Tsikata, former Chief Executive of the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), in Church was "a calculated move to embarrass it."

Presidential Spokesman, Kwabena Agyepong, said there were certain elements within the security system bent on giving credence to the accusation by the NDC that the government was harassing former NDC government officials. “The Attorney-General was emphatic on the day in question that they should not serve Mr Tsikata at the Church. For them to have gone back on his word to create a scene at the Church should be viewed as nothing but a calculated attempt to embarrass the government and to give it a bad name,” he said.

Two days later, it was reported that the Police Service had interdicted Police Commissioner in-charge of Legal and Prosecutions, Sam Awotwi, following the attempt by two policemen to arrest Tsatsu Tsikata in Church. The policemen involved, Detective Chief Inspector Hope Nyadi and Detective Inspector Ashitey Annang, were also interdicted.

The previous evening a security source purportedly told “The Evening News” that they were also investigating whether the interdicted Sam Awotwi’s “long association with the former GNPC boss might have influenced his role in the authorised arrest of Mr Tsikata”! Such was the atmosphere in Ghana. Again, this happened two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Fast Track High Court was unconstitutional. It may comfort Betty to know that the pressure then was not only on Nana to resign, on March 2, 2002, the NDC called for the resignation of Chief Justice Edward K. Wiredu for setting up the ‘unconstitutional’ Fast Track Court. On that same day, Tsatsu was back in court challenging the constitutionality of the charges against him. Before his plea could be taken, his counsel, EVO Dankwah, raised a preliminary objection that the act purportedly committed by his client was not an offence since it was committed in February 1993, whereas the law under which his client was purportedly charged came into effect in July of that year. The court agreed. The Judge said, “I must tell the Director of Public Prosecutions that, our laws are stable and under no stretch of imagination could in or about February mean July.” It was difficult to convince the NPP that their celebrated lawyer Akufo-Addo could make such mistakes. The NDC elements of mischief were busily at work at the A-G’s. There was another if not a more very basic error which only led NPP people to speculate even further that the NDC people at the A-G’s were deliberately doing what Kwabena Agyepong was accusing Sam Awotwi of doing. The summons which ordered Tsatsu's appearance before the FTC was issued in the name of the President and not the Republic.

“How could it be forgotten that by the Courts Act justice must be exercised in the name of the Republic and not the President? Did the A-G's office not know that by summoning Tsatsu in the name of the President, the independence of the judiciary was likely to be compromised? How come that this could not be detected by the whole machinery of the office the A-G? Was the A-G expecting us to believe him when he said that this error could not be traced to his office?” the Voice newspaper asked in its front page comment calling for Nana’s head.

Betty should take some advice from the concluding words of Nana’s statement, “While Nana Akufo-Addo may empathise with her predicament, whereby influential persons within the NDC are baying for her blood because of her alleged slowness in bringing former NPP government officials to trial, he believes that there are more responsible ways of handling the pressure than resorting to unnecessary fabrications.”

Who knows, may be Betty will follow her tormentor to the Foreign Ministry and make her presidential bid from there.